Dear Friends of Anapra,
This year we celebrate 30 years are being connected to Anapra-Poleo. Our founder, Ross Beaudoin, reflects back to how it all was started…
On a very hot summer day, two volunteers from the Kansas City area worked on building a small concrete block house in Colonia Puerto de Anapra, to the west of Juarez, Mexico. These volunteers were working with a group of five family members plus a maestro of construction and his helper. Only one of the KC people had been to that place before. That was months before – to look over the site and to agree to help with building and to pay the construction costs.
The year was 1992. The family consisted of Veronica, her four children (all under 11 years): Fernando, Luis, Paco and Viridiana. The volunteers were Matt Goedken, a teenager from Conception, MO, and Ross Beaudoin, Mission Coordinator at St. Mark’s Parish in Independence, MO. The maestro and his helper were residents in Anapra who were hired to guide the construction of the house. A volunteer with Annunciation House in El Paso, Margaret Schroeder, joined the construction effort as well.
Veronica (“Vero”) and her family had been living in a single room made of packing pallets with a blue tarp for a roof. They were more than happy to pitch-in and help with construction of a larger and more sturdy house.
The people of Kansas City provided a rotating supply of volunteers for the weeks required to build the house. They also raised the funds for building supplies and wages for the maestro and his helper. It was a collaboration that worked. In a few weeks a small, safe home was ready for Vero’s family. (That home still stands – with later additions….)
After two weeks of work, Matt and Ross returned to the US and more volunteers came down to Juarez. The total number of volunteers from the Kansas City area at one time was five or six. They lived at a Day Care facility in the “dump community.” (The people of the dump [basuria] community lived on the old dump and picked from the new dump). The US volunteers split up during the day, with two going by local buses the twelve miles to Anapra and the others remaining at the dump to dig a septic tank – to replace the outhouse method of sewage.
All of that was in 1992. At this writing we are in 2022; thirty years have passed. Yet the relationships that began with the building of Vero’s house in Anapra have endured over the years. Many houses made of packing pallets were repaired and many were replaced with concrete block houses.
A strange thing happened during that first week in Anapra. A small event that changed the course of the years since then. A maroon Toyota pickup with the words “Amados Discipulos” [“Beloved Disciples”] on the doors stopped at the construction site. An older gentleman called from the driver’s side window and asked who we were and how we got there. This person turned out to be “Brother Jim.” Brother Jim was a former Benedictine monk from South Carolina. He had come to Anapra on a sabbatical year, and decided to stay.
Brother Jim returned to the construction site later in the day, but he was not alone this time. He brought with him Estela Huerta. Estela was a resident of Anapra who also spoke English. (Estela had been raised by an aunt in Los Angeles for a number of years.) Estela facilitated communication between Vero, the maestro and us English-speakers. With Estela’s help, Brother Jim got his questions answered about the work that was going on. Both he and Estela would return off and on to see the progress of Veronica’s house.
As my weeks there were coming to an end, Estela asked if we would be returning to Anapra and its adjacent colonia of Lomas de Poleo. My response was, “should we come back?” The answer was, “There are many more houses that need to be fixed or replaced.” We agreed to keep in touch. (Of course, that was easier said than done, as there was no phone service in Anapra in 1992. Most communication was by letter sent through others in El Paso and delivered across the border when someone was able to do so.)
Over the following months, it was agreed that we would return to Anapra/Poleo in the summer of 1993. Estela lined up some families who needed help with their houses. We returned and things went pretty well. We met wonderful people and working together a few more homes were made safe and adequate. Most importantly, we all made new friends and began to feel like one community though living a thousand miles apart.
As the years went on, other needs in Anapra came to our attention: help for school students, medical needs, winter heating needs, a desire for Vacation Bible School, special needs of the seniors and so on. Thirty years later we are STILL CONNECTED. What began as a one-time event has turned out to be a long-term relationship: Kansas City/Anapra-Poleo. The people of Anapra/Poleo decided that together we should be called Manos Amigas para un mañana mejor – Friendly Hands for a better tomorrow.
We invite you to join us in this relationship of love and caring that goes both ways. Lives are blessed and enriched by communication and mutual support. Our world is bigger and stronger for the relationships we forge with each other, on both sides of “the border”.
Your part at this moment can be prayer. This is always important. Your help can also be financial: funds to meet a challenge grant of $3,000. Down the road you may want to help a student in school or a senior citizen who needs help with food, medicine or winter heat.
Thank you for considering helping our community of love that knows no border. After 30 years we stay Still Connected.